Independent thesis Advanced level (professional degree), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
Spaced learning is a novel teaching strategy which has used results from neuroscience research as the basis for its design. Neuroscience research supports the need for a temporal pattern of repeated stimulation of neural pathways in order to produce long-term memory. More specifically, a neural pathway needs repeated stimulation with a separation of at least ten minutes between stimulatory inputs in order for optimal memory retention to be attained. The ten minute gaps between stimulation represent the time needed to allow molecular processes within the neurons to take place, in order to strengthen the synaptic connections involved in creating a long-term memory.
Spaced learning is a teaching method developed on the bases of these neuroscience observations. It is designed to enhance long-term memory of the subject matter taught. The technique uses short (usually eight to twenty minutes) periods of intensive learning separated by ten minute periods of “distractor activities”. These may take the form of physical activities such as ball sports or clay modelling and are aimed to take the mind off the lesson for a short time. The technique was first developed in a school in North-East England and is gaining popularity in secondary schools throughout England.
The development of the technique, results of testing and its application are discussed together with the underlying neuroscience principles. The application of the technique to the specific task of teaching sixth form biology is examined and suggestions are made for ways in which spaced learning may be used to complement existing teaching techniques.
A field study was performed at a Swedish high school in order to assess the impact of spaced learning on education at this level. The study consisted of three spaced learning lessons delivered by the author and diagnostic testing. A survey was made to evaluate the student’s opinion of spaced learning. The results were consistent with spaced learning working well for revision and the survey showed that the students were generally positive towards spaced learning and enjoyed the lessons.
This exam work is set out to make an objective appraisal of spaced learning and raises a major question over whether neuroscience discoveries can be used in the development of education or if the gap between molecules and cells, and the classroom is too great.
2014. , 81 p.